You Can't Always Get What You Want: Learning To Live With It

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

The Rolling Stone lyrics have ran through my head over the last two weeks. And today, like many other times in my life, the lyrics hold meaning. In the past, I’ve applied the lyrics to my personal and social life. But today, the lyrics apply to my professional life.

Some of my time and energy away from this blog during the fall semester was for something I wanted. While I do not know the result of the desire and energy, I feel positive about my role. I realized about two weeks ago, that while I’m thankful for chasing the “want” I need to find a way to get what I “need.” This blog, my research on video games strategies and information literacy, the research community I’ve been lucky enough to tap into, and the people I’ve met in the field are really what I “need.”

Regardless of what my professional situation is, I have the ability to continue my professional development and advocacy of games in information literacy. My renewed commitment to this blog over the past week is part of realizing I have to provide what I “need” no matter what I think I “want.”

While this may sound a little cryptic, it’s been cathartic for me. Steven Bell’s ACRLog post that I talked about earlier discussed how blogs provide younger people in the professional a voice. This has most certainly been the case for me, and I’m very grateful. Even though my voice over this year has not always been as clear (learning) and as consistent (sorry) as I’d hope, I am very thankful for the opportunities this blog has helped create.

During this time of year of reflection and celebration, I want to thank everyone who’s helped provide those opportunities. Thank you to everyone for reading. Thank you to everyone who’s engaged in conversations, both online and off. Thank you to those whose work I’ve been able to highlight and discuss over the past year. And thank you to anyone out there who is advancing video games in libraries and education.

Thank you for giving me what I need. And I hope that I can continue to work to find ways to effectively give our students what they “need” as well. And maybe through video games and game strategies the students can even get what the “want” as well.

Gamespot: Academic Edition

As Christmas draws closer and my sons become more excited, I'm continuing to work my way through unfinished posts. While there are some posts that are not worth coming back to, others like this article from Gamespot UK is a nice end of the year feature.

While Gamespot and their parent compancy CNet came under editorial fire in early December for how they handled the release of a long time employee, this review of serious games and games in education was a nice overview for those new to the field and those experienced in the conversation.

The Gamespot controversy was a mark against one of the longest running and most popular video game sites. But the content of the site's features and the creditability of it's staff is still high quality. I've read Gamespot for over 10 years and as the site releases it's Best Games of the Year feature it's worthwhile to look at this feature about educational games.

Gamespot's high profile for traditional gamers opens educational / serious games up to a market not usually aware of games in education. More people discussing educational games outside of academics is a good sign for the year to come.

Thank you to Serious Games for posting this story back when it was released.

Changing our classrooms: Mark Wagner's Mass Multiplayer Schools

Since it's the end of the year and I'm in the process of tying up unfinished posts from the fall. Here's a post from Educational Technology and Life that's worth bringing back up to highlight. Mark Wagner’s work is usually excellent and worth discussing. Back in October, Mark posted his NECC 2008 proposals, including one on learning and school classrooms as MMORPG.

Mark provided an overview of his proposal, but the more interesting information is included in his complete NECC submission including:

The goal of this study is to identify potential applications of massively multiplayer online role-playing games as constructivist learning environments in the context of formal K12 education. The purpose is to identify the potential benefits and drawbacks of such applications and to recommend courses of action for future research by academics, future game development by industry professionals, and future instructional decisions made by public educators.
Questions Posed:

- What are the potential benefits of using MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments in formal K12 education?

- What are the potential problems related to using MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments in formal K12 education?

Additionally, based on the literature review the following six research questions will be used to focus the study:

- Engagement and motivation: How might MMORPGs be used to motivate and engage students, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Context: How might MMORPGs be used to provide a context for student learning, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Inquiry: How might MMORPGs be used to provide students with opportunities for inquiry-based learning, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Social Negotiation: How might MMORPGs be used to support social negotiation of meaning (including facilitated collaboration, cooperation, and competition), and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Reflection: How might MMORPGs be used to encourage student reflection and metacognition, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Social Change: How might MMORPGs used in formal K12 education be used to effect positive social change?

Mark's blog is an excellent resource for these questions and discussion around them. Much of Mark's thesis content and research is contained within Educational Technology and Life. Thank you Mark for sharing your work.

All 7 and we'll watch them fall: Video game myths

Slaying myths of video games started as a series of articles earlier this fall but hasn't finished discussing all 7 "myths."

Via John Rice's Educational Games Research blog, back in October John linked to Lee Wilson's ongoing articles in Techlearning. Lee started a series of articles that discussed the seven myths of video games, part 1 covers #1 & #2 and part 2 covers #3 - #5. Part 3 is still on it's way.

Myth #1—Games are all about twitch speed, not higher order thinking skills.
  • There is plenty of research, articles, and books available that discuss how games apply higher order critical thinking skills. I've spent time discussing the information literacy value of games in addition to the critical thinking and other higher order skills as well.
Myth #3—Learning elements leach all the fun out of games.
  • While some recent educational games, like Arden, may be criticized for lacking fun, fun is possible. The danger that educational games encounter is educational content tacked onto some attempt at gameplay. Games like Revolution, focused on the game first and then on the educational content. Educational game designers who start working on the "game" first and then determine what players can learn have an advantage in creating an educational game that is fun. Games do not need to "beat players over the head" with the educational content in order for players to learn something. The potential for players to learn through the experience is something vital to the success of educational games. Bogost's calls this learning, procedural literacy in his book Persuasive Games.
Myth #4—Teachers don't need to be involved in the game; kids can do it on their own.
  • Educational games are still pieces of education technology and as such still should be paired with discussion, reflection, and analysis of the experience. There is quite a bit that can be learned simply through playing, but there is so much more that students can gain from discussing the game experience with other players. In addition to creating a richer experience for students, discussion also allows educators to see what students are taking away from the game.
The articles' author Lee Wilson maintains a blog, here

Thanks for the Prince Symbol

ALA's Tech Source Report: Gaming Update

A year ago I was excited about Jenny Levine's ALA Tech Source Report and then I was even more excited to receive a copy for this blog (a blog that at the time I didn't think anyone knew of). And now a year later I'm excited and humbled to be asked by Jenny to write a section for her report update.

My rough outline is below and I'm interested on any feedback you might have.

I. The Value of Games
II. Embedded Information Literacy
A. Fantasy Football
B. Video Games
1. Madden
2. Halo
3. Final Fantasy
III. Games Teach
A. What Games Teach
1. Critical Thinking
2. Information Literacy
B. How Games Teach - Education Strategies
1. Gee
2. VanEck
3. Federation of American Scientists
IV. Video Game Strategies in the Classroom
A. Applying Strategies to Information Literacy
1. Existing programs, lessons modified
2. The Sum is Greater than the Parts
B. University of Dubuque
1. Web searching
2. Research Review
3. Library Dusk
V. Start Small, Start Now

An Early Christmas Present

Many of us are getting the December issue of College & Research Libraries News in our mailboxes this week. Editor, David Free sent me an early Christmas present - a preview of the cover for the upcoming January. My fantasy football and information literacy article will be published in it and I'm excited by the cover.

Since it's was a preview I'm not going to show the full cover.

But here's a little teaser.

John Rice's Top 10 Educational Game Countdown

Over at Educational Games Research, John Rice, provide an excellent year end "top 10 list" of free educational video games. I've tried most of these, but if you haven't here's a great chance to catch up.

John's list includes a number of games that I've talked about over the past year including Food Force (students' reactions) and Revolution (including my three part interview with co-creator Matthew Weise pts:1, 2, 3).

John's list also includes Arden, which while I was excited to see how it turned out the results were not as exciting as planned. But Arden's creators have opened it up to everyone and there is some real future potential for creating learning communities there, even without a driving narrative experience. MIT's Technology Review has a good overview article on Arden as well.

John Rice's blog is consistently a good read for anyone interested in applying video games in education. Thank you for the list John.

Defense of Hidgeon: Karen Markley's Information Literacy Video Game

This week I had a conversation with Karen Markley from the University of Michigan about her information literacy game, Defense of Hidgeon. Karen had just finished getting feedback from a student focus group and was already preparing for the next iteration of the game. As theshiftedlibrarian’s post stated, Karen is looking for additional partners for the next step in the game. I hope that anyone interested will Karen. Karen has a good base of a game to begin the project with and her group has learned a lot through the development and implementation of the first game. Below are some of the notes from my conversation:

A Soc110 class of 75 students played the game from the beginning of November until Thanksgiving break. At the end of November, Karen held a discussion group with some of the students involved in playing the game. What follows are some of the notes from a conversation I had with Karen during the first week of December.

The group of 75 students consisted of mainly freshmen. But there were a larger number of sophomores and juniors in the introductory class than initially expected. This shift in the numbers of older, and potentially more experienced students, may reflect some of the negative feedback on the game.

The students played in groups of four to answer the questions. The teams of four played on a one game board with the ideal of working together to answer each of the research questions. Even working in groups was not enough to improve the student’s game experience. According to Karen, the students “hated” the topic of the Black Death. They stated, “I did this in High School” and wanted “something relevant” for a topic. The students felt the topic was not connected to the content in their class, and felt more like extra work than an enjoyable way to research.

Students also discussed how some of the additional challenges in the game frustrated them. The players had to go to the library and ask a reference question in order to get their character out of prison. While the idea of getting students into the physical building and interacting with the librarians was good in theory, the students felt the challenge distracted them from the game. They expressed concern that any additional challenges would not remove them from the game.


A lot of the student feedback sounded realistic when Karen described it. The students were looking for a “video game” type of experience, but the additional “big game” type of tasks was different than their expectation of a traditional video game. Some of the student's expressed lack of interest in completing the game may be their expressed disconnect with class content. I believe that some of the less than positive reviews also stems from a less than compelling game experience. The linear experience of the game and the limited freedom to explore or choose a direction might have contributed to limited engagement with the game.

While the feedback from the students felt negative, Karen was not deterred. She is positive and excited about the next phase in the process. She has already began discussions with the Comprehensive Studies Program at the University. It is a class of about 150 incoming Freshmen (with coverage in the Humanities and Sciences). The class has one research writing assignment. Karen is discussing applying the game with this class and tying it into their research assignment. The next iteration will seek to provide more detail and specifically take students through a variety of sources. Her hope is to have a grade attached to the game, in order to provide additional incentive to finishing the game.

The future of the game will end up taking a different form than it's current context in the Middle Ages. After watching the gameplay and having a chance to play it, the foundation of the game is good and some game design changes could create a more engaging experience for students. Opening up the game space and creating more than one path through the "board" are game design decisions that may help engage students, but will also result in more complicated design, scripting, and planning in order to make it work.

While there is a lot of work ahead for Karen, her team, and any new partners in the project. I'm looking forward see how the game develops.

Update: Since the time that I originally started this post earlier in December, Jenny blogged about it and Karen received a good response from other librarians interested. Christy over at Bibliographic Gaming picked up the conversation and the game as well. Michael over at the Information Literacy Land of Confusion blogged about it as well.

Changing the flow of narrative: Video games and ACLA

I was fortunate enough to be asked to present a paper for a panel at the upcoming American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) Annual Meeting in Long Beach this April. Here is the abstract of the paper. I'm interested in any thoughts and/or suggestions since the scope is a little beyond libraries and information literacy.

"A recent study out of the United Kingdom showed literacy rates down among children. Other reports show the Millennial generation reading less printed media. These signs and others suggest dark times for the narrative and reading in general. But times have never been as bright. Our students are not only readers they are now producers and writers of narratives as well. Video games and the fan fiction around them create unique opportunities to connect students to the narrative through engagement and creation.
Media Studies researchers recognize students’ passion in gameplay and in the worlds around the games. As game narratives are becoming more advanced, more is demanded of the player. Stories build to the conclusion where the emotional payoff is often 20 to 30 hours in the making. Not only are games providing a narrative for players to engage in, they are creating an opportunity to create additional stories within this game world through modding and fan fiction communities. Researches at the University of Wisconsin Madison and elsewhere are studying these fan created stories and the writing skills acquired through them.
Video games present our students with new opportunities to explore and create narrative writing. This paper explores those opportunities and discusses ways for faculty to apply those abilities to classroom settings. "

Fantasy football and libraries: Upcoming publication

Here's the introduction to my upcoming article on information literacy and fantasy football for C&R Libraries News:

Librarians want students to effectively identify and evaluate information and make decisions based upon it. These are just some of the skills that an information literate student successfully applies. These are the same skills that over 19 million people use on a daily or weekly basis playing fantasy sports (Fantasy Sports Trade Association). As the NFL football season comes to a close, millions of Americans, as young as 12 years old, have spent the past few months connected to information literacy. They just don’t know it.
The challenge for librarians is to connect fantasy sports skills to information literacy and create building blocks for academic applications of the same concepts. One library, University of Dubuque, did just this by teaching fantasy football research to incoming student athletes. Through the lesson, students engaged in discussions of creditability, validity, timeliness, and search strategies to find and evaluate fantasy football information. The assessment of these instruction sessions showed incoming students successfully identifying
evaluation criteria and reporting positive changes in how they viewed research and libraries.

image from C&R Libraries News

I've been asking myself this a lot lately...

"Are You Where You Want to be Professionally"

Steven Bell's excellent post over at ACRLog provides a lot for new and seasoned librarians to think about.

Where I'm at professionally is a question I've debated internally for the majority of this semester. Obliviously, my postings here have been any thing but consistent. Some of this lack of consistency stems from teaching 101 information literacy sessions this semester. Some of it comes from being a husband and a father. And some comes from enjoying video games for more than simply "research" purposes. Added together this blog and my writing here has suffered.

Bell's post talks about priorities and not being able to be everything all at one time. Steven's post help me feel that taking time to be one thing or another well is okay. I've been fortunate to have the support of people for the research and discussions that Research Quest was designed to promote. I hope that as this year draws to a close, I can find some balance.

I will continue to work toward my goals and understand as Steven said, "It took time to develop my voice, and gain the ability to think and write about things in a way that communicates them well to others." Thank you for your post Steven.